My Interview With Lela!
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Today’s interview is with Stella Brians. Welcome to the blog, Stella. Tell us something about yourself.
Brians Stella1Hello Lela, thank you so much for having me today. I am originally from rainy New England. I am a full time author, and I primarily write Metaphysical Fiction but I also write poetry and other genres.
My husband’s from New England. Lovely part of the country. At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?
My parents are both writers, so the desire to write and be creative was innate. They were always very encouraging and supportive, and I took a writing class instructed by my father. I have always dabbled with writing, but I wrote my first novella when I was sixteen As a child, I spent most of my time reading and I loved going to the library.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am a rather disorganized writer. I make notes in two different notebooks, and on my laptop. A friend suggested Scrivener, but I’m not completely sold on it yet. Sometimes if I am away from home and I get an idea, I will text myself. I am always thinking about the book I am writing, from the time I wake up in the morning until I go to sleep. Something that really helps me stay focused is New Age music or at least something that is low key—like Ray Lynch’s album Deep Breakfast.
I like that “draft” function in my cell phone for jotting down ideas. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?
That is difficult to say, because I have a very eclectic reading list going right now. I really enjoy fantasy, like Anne Mccaffrey or Ursula Le Guinn. I also love classics, like Alice in Wonderland or The Secret Garden. I also do a lot of reading in the New Age genre, because that is what I write most of the time.
To write, I would say that I love to write Metaphysical Fantasy, which is officially known as Visionary Fiction. It combines ideas such as Reincarnation, Paganism, and other like spiritual beliefs and blends it with fiction.
I just learned something new and here I am, a fantasy writer. What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about a lot of things, but it is especially important to me that all living things are treated with love and care. That means all animals, all people, and all plants. I am passionate about writing and all creative forms. I think that is vital to keep learning throughout your life, and to never stop reading or being creative.
What is something you cannot live without?
My significant other means the most to me, but if we are talking about objects only I would say it is vital that I have books and my laptop. Of course, having access to running water, clothing, and a way to cook food is very important too.
When you are not writing, what do you do?
When I am not writing, I am usually reading, doing research for my writing, sketching, taking a walk in the woods, or spending time with my significant other.
Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?
I would have to say that the books in my “Hidden World of Wysteria” Series have had a very positive and transformative effect on me. Writing them has led me to do more research about my spiritual beliefs, and I have been able to work creatively while combining New Age elements with fantasy. Recently I have been working on illustrations for the third book in my series, so it has also released the artistic side of me.
Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?
The first book in my series, The Paperback Writer of Central Park was inspired by a long visit I had in New York City. It was the summer of 2009, and I took a bus from New Haven to Manhattan. I stayed in hostels and wandered about, writing in a journal. This was a troubling time for me, but it was also a time of healing. I made a friend from England, whose name was Sarah. She shows up in the book as the good friend of the two main characters.
Nature (rain and trees in particular) are very inspiring for me. All kinds of weather and nature have important roles in my books, sometimes as characters. I would say that growing up in New England has enhanced my fascination with nature, it is a very beautiful and peaceful place. Connecticut’s oceans, weather, and sleepy towns were like a blueprint for my world of Wysteria.
What sort of research do you do for your novels?
I read many books on paganism, tree magick, and Earth magick in general. I combine my research with my own experience in life and with my spiritual journey with the Universe.
If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?
I would describe my writing as very gentle and understanding. The characters in my book have usually led troubled lives, and they go through ordeals that they must work through in one way or another. Part of why I decided to write this series is that I wanted people with depression, anxiety, and other life issues to know that they will okay. I want them to know that although the author may not know them personally, but she cares about them. I tend to write in a very poetic, whimsical tone.
Do you have a special place where you write?
Most of the time, I type at my computer but if I am not going to be home for a bit I take a notebook. I can write anywhere as long as it is quiet and not hot.
Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?
The reoccurring themes in my Hidden World of Wysteria Series (generally speaking) are dealing with mental illness, believing in yourself and finding those who understand you, as well as the New Age element that honors the Earth. The Afterlife is a prevalent theme, and it is discussed in a peaceful and creative way. The answers the main characters seek are complex, and will reveal themselves as the series continues.
Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?
I think that my work is a combination of the two. The storylines of my series delve into the lives of those who live in Wysteria, and is told by a troubled main character. The setting of the peaceful Wysteria is special, because there is much to discover, and the land is constantly expanding. That, along with the woes of the main character drive the plot.
Basically, in the series the wizard Zeferaus plays an important role as a teacher and Memory Curator. What that means is, he collects memories about New England that have been forgotten or discarded and sews together a world made out of them. That world is Wysteria, the afterlife dimension where much of my books take place.
Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?
For every novel, I have a basic idea and a few characters along with the old ones from the previous books. I jot down my notes and character sketches, and begin to write. I am largely a discovery writer, and keep a document for all changes and store it all together. As I write, I make notes of new characters, places, events, and so forth. This is how my creativity and imagination work best.
What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?
I write from first person, because I have tried other viewpoints and first works best. I feel that it brings out the best in my writing, the characters, and the story. Also I prefer to read novels that are in first person, it is my overall preference.
Do you head-hop?
I usually stay within the mind of one character, but I may write a scene where another character is telling a story.
I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?
Since it is Alaska, I can imagine that the heat will be tolerable. I would settle into an office, and bring my research books, the few novels I am currently reading, and my laptop. I would draw and photograph the Alaskan landscape, its animals, and use this time to write and be at peace.
Talk about your books individually.
The Paperback Writer of Central Park is the first book in my Hidden World of Wysteria Series. It centers around two introverted writers, Elizabeth and River. Elizabeth tells the story in a gentle but honest way.
She is homeless for years in New York City, but lives in hostels from the money she makes as a freelancer. Whenever she is not doing that, she is working on her debut novel. After haphazardly publishing it and getting on her feet, she and her British punk friend Sarah start a writing group they call The Paperback Writers. The group is composed of a motley crew of indie writers, including a shy hippie named River.
Elizabeth and River fall in love, and bring love and understanding to each other’s lives. Throughout the novel, the Paperback Writers stick together and not only self-publish their books but open a tiny bookstore for indies. After Elizabeth and River get married, his parents give them a cottage in Mystic, Connecticut and they open a lighthouse bookstore. The couple discover Zeferaus’s potion room behind their attic bookcase, and are inducted into Wysteria. Towards the end of the book, an intruder is discovered by the intuitive Willow trees and Zeferaus asks for their help.
Wysteria is the second book in my Hidden World of Wysteria Series. The novel is told from the voice of Milo, a young man who has emancipated himself from his abusive father. He lives in a pleasant Massachusetts town, but is lonely. An indigo colored cat with telekinesis and the ability to talk shows up on his doorstep, and from then on Milo’s life is never the same.
He and his girlfriend Lorna begin to have the same dreams of a stone lighthouse by the water, and one day the wizard Zeferaus shows up in their kitchen. He explains that they are old souls, and that it is their time to leave Earth.
They make the decision to pass on, and soon they are settled into Wysteria. Things seem peaceful at first, but an enemy of the wizard is bent on destroying their world. Through defending Wysteria, Milo and Lorna make new friends and convince Zeferaus to open a school for Earth Magick and Spirituality.
Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?
Yes. It was important to me to write a series with the elements of kindness, love, acceptance, and spiritual tolerance.
What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?
I want them to know that they are not alone in their troubles, that there is always someone willing to help. It is my hope that they believe in themselves, in their dreams—which is different for everyone.
What influenced your decision to self-publish?
Several elements were present in my decision to self-publish. Over the course of a year, I did an enormous amount of research about publishing, and joined a private online writing group where I spoke to authors and learned as much as I could. I also wrote a paper on self-publishing, and Createspace in particular.
When I was a child, my father self-published his own books through a micro press. He now publishes through Createspace. Throughout my life I have learned from him about writing and publishing. One of his most important lessons was the integrity of self-publishing versus traditional. When you publish independently and by your own merits, you are able to remain true to your word without having to change for the marketing needs of a publishing company. I realize that it is more difficult to get your book noticed on your own, but if you know where to look there are always people willing to help. Often times, independent bookstores will agree to carry a book by an indie author.
What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?
For me, the greatest advantage is to be able to retain complete rights of my books and to have control over the story, creativity, and design. As a person and author, my individuality is very important to me. I want to always be true to myself and to my creative spirit.
I always greatly appreciate when someone buys my books. It absolutely makes my day. My goal is to have my books help people, and to make a difference.
Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?
I think that what self-published authors struggle with is the financial ability to promote nearly as much as a traditional publisher. We advertise in smaller but significant ways that are appropriate for our budget and do everything we can to reach readers.
With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?
I write and design my novels with honesty and integrity. I give them a very Earthy, New England feel blended with a sense of calm. Something really important that I would like to pass on to other authors—it is vital to advocate for yourself. Always be polite, but assertive. Ask if you can hang that flyer up, if you may have an interview. And, do not be afraid to give back.
Who designed your book cover/s?
I did! The photo on the cover of The Paperback Writer of Central Park is actually the green in Colchester, Connecticut during autumn. My mother took the cover photo for Wysteria, and it is of the Avery Point Lighthouse in Connecticut. It was very important to me to have that particular lighthouse on the cover, because it inspired the one in my series. I was so grateful for her help.
For the third book, I am going to illustrate the cover and possibly add some illustrations for the interior.
Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?
I believe that self-published authors can create beautiful, high quality books. It is my opinion that using a matte finish versus a glossy finish really gives your book a professional, high quality look. In my experience, original photographs or hand drawn illustrations add to the level of aestheticism and beauty that indie books are trying to achieve. What I think brings down the quality of a book is when people use stock images or computer illustrations which add a tasteless effect.
As someone who designs her own covers (with input from my daughter, who is an artist), I agree with you about striving for excellence and uniqueness in covers. Do you belong to a writer’s cooperative? Describe your experience with that.
I belong to a private writing group online, and it has been an incredible experience. I have learned a great deal about my writing, the publishing world, and what to do, what not to do. This group is one of the most peaceful places on the internet for people to critique each other’s writing, help each other, or just to hang out. I have met some wonderful writers and made some dear friends.
About Stella Brians
Stella is the author of her Metaphysical Fantasy Series, The Hidden World of Wysteria. She is currently working on the third book in that series. Stella loves animals, the rain, and reading. She also sketches and paints. To learn more about Stella or request to be interviewed by her about your indie writing, please visit: https://paperbackwriterlife.wordpress.com/about/
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